The Art Of Pride In Small (But Huge) Triumphs

It’s already December; 2018 will soon be over. I never want to rush things — a month can pack in universes of thoughts and events that change everything… or even one shiningly crucial situation. Still, when December arrives, I often begin to look back on the earlier parts of the year.

This year, as usual, my first reactions are disappointment and sadness. I still can’t afford that Manhattan condo. I did not publish any books this year, let alone the “iconoclastic book that would galvanize people’s minds and souls” that my high school mind had imagined my adult self creating. I have no proof of the human soul’s immortality (my greatest, grandest dream), and these past months did not even present any particularly powerful shreds of evidence in that direction. I haven’t met God, or suspected that I might have at any special point that rings out to me right now. I continue to feel terror as I look towards the future. “Peace” still strikes me as a word from an alien dimension.

But hey, here I am, and, in a way, I am kind of OK. I’m alive, my mind is active, and, while my body often hates to move, it has taken me to some wonderful places near to and far from my home. So, in my never-ending attempt to be open to positive possibility, I’ve decided to praise myself for some seemingly small but, in many cases, enormous victories I’ve achieved so far this year:

1) I am getting better and better at making my bed.

First, I discovered that the tag always belongs on the lower right side. That eliminated at least 20 minutes of trial and error. And it doesn’t stop there. I used to take at least a half hour to figure out how to pull the sheets from the bottom to the top of the bed. About two months ago, I realized that, if I pulled the wrinkles out slowly, starting at the bottom, I could get the sheet to reach the top of the bed after about 15 minutes of futzing around… so much faster than before. I know most people are much quicker and more efficient at this than I am, but the first sign of self-love is acknowledging your own special difficulties… and not holding yourself to an unrealistic standard.

2) Sometimes, I order the steamed vegetables instead of the fries when I get a sandwich at the diner in my building.

I don’t do this all the time, but, honestly, I don’t order the sandwiches that come with fries all that often. Most of the time… OK, at least half of the time… I ask the server to substitute the vegetables instead of the fries. I first thought of making this request last month, and, though I was half-hoping my wish would be denied, I wound up really enjoying the vegetables: a flavorful mix of broccoli, carrots, and zucchini. The fries get kind of cloying and overwhelming after a while anyhow; the vegetables are tasty from beginning to end.

3) I discovered a wonderful way of dissing people who want me to join them in the elevator.

Don’t misunderstand: I am not as unfriendly as you may be thinking. In general, I don’t mind at all if other people share my elevator space. But there are a few people in my building who are insistent about it, for some reason. “Want me to hold the elevator? No? Are you sure?” When someone is this enthusiastic about taking the same elevator as me when I could easily want to check my mail or some such before going up, I start to feel afraid. My innards begin to fester. If it continues for more than a minute (“It’s really no trouble; I can hold the door while you look in your mailbox”) I feel like the odds that Moshiach will ever come and save this planet are plummeting to less than zero.

So… I tell people I have to check my mail. If that doesn’t work, I say: “I am really finicky about my mail. It’s all part of my neurological impairment.” Bingo! Elevator closes!

4) I went halfway around the world alone!

I’ve written about that before, so I’ll try to give this one a new twist. But, seriously, how could I leave my trip to Bali and Dubai out when considering this topic? The key, in some ways, is this: I discovered that I am a zany combination of introverted and extroverted. I loved having my own hotel room, my own space, my own ability to choose exactly what I wanted to do at any given time. I also loved the freedom to talk to anyone, anywhere, without worrying that someone with me would feel left out or annoyed. Perfect combination of people and no people, all on my own terms.

Not to mention… I am so inept. I get lost; I misplace things; filled schedules overwhelm me. It is so much easier for me to stay home. The temptation can be overwhelming. But it’s not like I love home so much. I need to get away. And I did it on my own terms, completely, with no one dragging me down or encouraging me to focus on something other than my own needs. I felt like new galaxies opened for me. I may be clumsy, but I am not totally incompetent when it comes to exploration. I can do it! In my own way! And what other way is there if you’re me?

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5) I’ve found a very effective way to curb my feelings of jealousy.

Maybe you require 4,000 calories each day and love food every bit as much as I do. Maybe you can afford a Manhattan condo, a Cambridge, MA condo, and a place in London, in case you want to leave the country on a whim without worrying about where to stay. Maybe you’re 10 years younger than I am and have already published 5 books that have won international prizes. Maybe you’re 20 years younger than I am… and just think how much longer you’re likely to live and be healthy and energetic. Maybe you look like a glorious painting and have breathtaking mystical talents. Maybe you have the kind of mathematical genius that allows you to envision dimensions beyond the ones most of us can process.

But… I’ve never been in your head. Maybe it’s brutal in there! Maybe you’re unspeakably miserable despite your ability to eat 4 glorious feasts each day while traveling the world and tapping into your 1-in-a-billion mathematical and mystical talents. Maybe you’re horrified by the sight of yourself even though most people think you look like a painting.

Maybe… I don’t know. That’s just it: I truly don’t know. All I know is how to be me, with my failures and shortcomings as part of the deal. I can handle being me. I have no idea whether I could handle your own life… with all the details and nuances I can’t even imagine right now.

So… have fun feasting in restaurant after restaurant before returning to your glorious Manhattan home. I’m not jealous. Just… very, very curious. To the point where I’d love to jump in and try your ways on my own terms, if I could figure out how.

In the meantime, let’s all celebrate pride in small accomplishments… or at least those of us who don’t have anything earthshattering to celebrate as we look back over this year. You may not have heard the words “Mazel Tov” in relation to yourself all year, but you can celebrate yourself all the same.

Mazel Tov, Stephanie!

Mazel Tov, Amazing Soul Who Has Read To The End Of My Essay!


Image Credit: Jake Ingle at